Amanda Gorman, The Nation’s First Youth Poet Laureate

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 “Not Broken But Simply Unfinished” 

Krista Hanson 

Viewpoints Editor 

In “How a 22-year-old L.A. native became Biden’s inauguration poet,” Amanda Gorman told Los Angeles Times’ Julia Barajas about her time writing the poem that she later recited for the president. Gorman wrote her poem in a “pandemic-induced solitude” where she created her own historical soundtrack with music from “The Crown, “Lincoln,” “Darkest Hour” and “Hamilton.” 

Gorman, also inspired by the storming of the U.S. Capitol, wrote a statement discussing the harsh history of our country and how she hopes her poem will inspire: “America is messy. It’s still in its early development of all that we can become. And I have to recognize that in the poem. I can’t ignore that or erase it. And so I crafted an inaugural poem that recognizes these scars and these wounds. Hopefully, it will move us toward healing them.”  

In short, Gorman’s poem is inspiring. She writes about her experiences from a citizen’s perspective that is meant to create a relatable base. Gorman doesn’t sugarcoat the reality we live in and the fear that the political climate has created the last couple years. Despite the scary facts, Gorman’s view on an unfinished country is one that is hopeful.  

I began getting interested in politics in 2015 during my freshman year of high school. The country was in the middle of a heated debate about the future president. My high school put on a mock election with students dressing up as the presidential candidates and other political figures.  

The whole school gathered for this election, voted within our fake states and ultimately our pretend Trump won. While none of it felt real, most students not being old enough to vote anyway, it created some very real political tensions among students.  

This picture that Gorman creates of being “heirs / of such a terrifying hour” felt very real all of a sudden. I feared if our mock election showed our future, what was going to happen to us. Four years have passed, and experiencing President Trump’s America, my fears never went away.  

After hearing Gorman’s positive attitude about our future, I have become less fearful. She made a good point, this is not the end and we’re not striving for perfection just something better. I know I want to do what I can to make this a better world and that starts right at home. We make love our legacy and begin the journey to a better country.  

It’s this resilient spirit that will grows when we’re grieve, hope when we’re hurt and try when we’re tired that will continue us past the “never-ending shade.” A future that reflects us as people and the things we love about one another, not the things that divide us.  

“The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman 

When day comes we ask ourselves, 

where can we find light in this never-ending shade? 

The loss we carry, 

a sea we must wade 

We’ve braved the belly of the beast 

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace 

And the norms and notions 

of what just is 

Isn’t always just-ice 

And yet the dawn is ours 

before we knew it 

Somehow we do it 

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed 

a nation that isn’t broken 

but simply unfinished 

We the successors of a country and a time 

Where a skinny Black girl 

descended from slaves and raised by a single mother 

can dream of becoming president 

only to find herself reciting for one 

And yes we are far from polished 

far from pristine 

but that doesn’t mean we are 

striving to form a union that is perfect 

We are striving to forge a union with purpose 

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and 

conditions of man 

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us 

but what stands before us 

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, 

we must first put our differences aside 

We lay down our arms 

so we can reach out our arms 

to one another 

We seek harm to none and harmony for all 

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: 

That even as we grieved, we grew 

That even as we hurt, we hoped 

That even as we tired, we tried 

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious 

Not because we will never again know defeat 

but because we will never again sow division 

Scripture tells us to envision 

that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree 

And no one shall make them afraid 

If we’re to live up to our own time 

Then victory won’t lie in the blade 

But in all the bridges we’ve made 

That is the promised glade 

The hill we climb 

If only we dare 

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, 

it’s the past we step into 

and how we repair it 

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation 

rather than share it 

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy 

And this effort very nearly succeeded 

But while democracy can be periodically delayed 

it can never be permanently defeated 

In this truth 

in this faith we trust 

For while we have our eyes on the future 

history has its eyes on us 

This is the era of just redemption 

We feared at its inception 

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs 

of such a terrifying hour 

but within it we found the power 

to author a new chapter 

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves 

So while once we asked, 

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe? 

Now we assert 

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us? 

We will not march back to what was 

but move to what shall be 

A country that is bruised but whole, 

benevolent but bold, 

fierce and free 

We will not be turned around 

or interrupted by intimidation 

because we know our inaction and inertia 

will be the inheritance of the next generation 

Our blunders become their burdens 

But one thing is certain: 

If we merge mercy with might, 

and might with right, 

then love becomes our legacy 

and change our children’s birthright 

So let us leave behind a country 

better than the one we were left with 

Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, 

we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one 

We will rise from the gold-limbed hills of the west, 

we will rise from the windswept northeast 

where our forefathers first realized revolution 

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states, 

we will rise from the sunbaked south 

We will rebuild, reconcile and recover 

and every known nook of our nation and 

every corner called our country, 

our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, 

battered and beautiful 

When day comes we step out of the shade, 

aflame and unafraid 

The new dawn blooms as we free it 

For there is always light, 

if only we’re brave enough to see it 

If only we’re brave enough to be itPage Break 

Photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff CC BY 2.0